Margin of Σrror

Margin of Σrror -

Anthony Weiner’s post ‘Carlos Danger’ numbers are junk | Harry J Enten

Running against a weak frontrunner in Christine Quinn, Weiner had a golden opportunity to be New York mayor. Not any longer

Until now, Anthony Weiner’s political comeback from his original sexting scandal had been going very much to plan, probably exceeding even his own expectations. But with the new round of “Carlos Danger” revelations, that smooth progress is well and truly finished.

The Marist polling organization, which has tended to be the most favorable to Weiner, has him dropping 9pt, to 16%, and now behind first-placed Christine Quinn, on 25% among registered Democratic voters.

To be sure, these latest polls are not good news for Quinn, either. She trails in a possible runoff match-up with Bill Thompson, even as she was tied with Weiner.

The real problem for Weiner, however, is that numbers under the hood are even more devastating. Weiner had seen his favorable rating jump from 34% in February, to 45% in April, to 52% in June. That number has now tanked, to 30%. His unfavorable rating, meanwhile, has jumped to 55% among registered Democrats. That, folks, is simply not going to work.

More than this, the bigger obstacle for Weiner actually has nothing to do with him. It involves the other anti-Quinn candidates. Remember, Quinn is disliked by a substantial portion of the Democratic primary electorate. The anti-Quinn vote is looking for someone, really anyone, who can beat her. That has been Anthony Weiner, thanks to his high name-recognition.

The latest polling, even pre-scandal, shows that other non-Quinn candidates have been moving up. Bill Thompson, with a strong African-American base, hit 20% in a Quinnipiac poll among likely voters just before the “Danger saga”. Marist just placed him at 14% among registered voters. Both of these are the highest numbers he has scored in these polls since Weiner got in the race.

Bill de Blasio doesn’t have the same ethnic base, but progressives love him. He has put up a 14% and 15%, respectively, in the last two polls – also his highest to date with these pollsters.

About the only good news Weiner can take out of the wreckage of his polling numbers is that more Democrats want him to stay in the race than wish him to drop out. This suggests Weiner just might be able to recover, again. The problem is that the 47% who want him to stay in is lower than the 53% that said he deserved a second chance last time around (just two months ago).

I should caution also that a one-night poll after such a jarring admission may not be the most accurate. Opinions about Weiner may not be fully-formed. His numbers may slide even further given even further negative press since the Marist poll was conducted. It’s also possible, though not likely, that they could bounce back. But we should remember that while only 40% of New York City Democrats wanted him to run just before he got into the race, over time his numbers went up and his favorable rating climbed steadily.

Moreover, one-night polling in a city that is notoriously difficult to survey isn’t likely to lead to the most accurate survey. In the comptroller race with Eliot Spitzer, which should be mostly unaffected by Weiner’s PR problems, Marist had very different numbers than Quinnipiac. Marist had Spitzer ahead by 12pt with likely voters, while Quinnipiac had Spitzer ahead by just 4pt.

All of these reservations aside, it’s clear Weiner’s in a heap of trouble. It will now be up to either Bill de Blasio or Bill Thompson to step in and fill the anti-Quinn void. Weiner had a golden opportunity to exploit Quinn’s electoral weakness; it looks as though he’s blown it. © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Why the Republican coalition will still work in 2016 | Harry J Enten

Predictions of demographic doom for the GOP are wishful: polling shows that winning big with white voters can deliver

The faultline in the GOP revealed by the party’s internal debate on immigration reform – over whether a future Republican coalition should rely more heavily on whites than it already does, or should try and bring more Latinos into the fold to win the presidency – remains unresolved. What we can say is that the last election and current polling suggest that the Republicans’ path of least resistance is to win even more non-college-educated whites and to try to win somewhat more of the minority vote.

Start with the fact that in 2012 Obama lost a little more than 3pt off his margin of victory in 2008. That swing was not uniform. It’s fairly clear that Obama’s share fell significantly with white voters without a college education, stayed about level with whites with a college degree, gained a few points with Latinos, and may have lost a point or two with black voters.

I don’t view the incongruity between those shifts as a sign that Obama should have done worse or better. In any election, you’re given a certain amount of leverage by the state of the economy, and you need to use it where you can. In 2012, the parties found the coalitions that worked for them. It just so happened that Obama had more room for growth electorally because the economy was “good enough”.

Indeed, there is little to no sign that Mitt Romney did worse than he should have, given the state of the economy. President Obama won by a little less than 4pt, when the two best fundamental models (based solely on numerous different economic factors) had him winning by 3pt and 5pt respectively. Taking into account Obama’s approval rating and the economy, as the original Alan Abramowitz model does, shows Obama should have won by a little more than 4pt.

That’s the reason why I don’t buy the argument that the shrinking white population in this country necessarily spells doom for the Republicans. This is a two-party system where the economy almost always dictates who wins and loses elections. No one has yet proved that the 2012 election indicates that the Republican party needs to change fundamentally in order to win, despite hundreds of column inches expended on the subject.

For Republicans to win, they’d need a slightly more favorable economic conditions for the out-party. Following the 2012 pattern, this would allow them to continue to do exponentially better among the white working class. Sean Trende, who believes that Republicans could win with a mostly white coalition, gives Republicans a few more points among minorities.

Of course, many doubt this steady-state strategy could work for Republicans. Karl Rove said a few months ago that Republicans would have a hard time regularly winning the white vote by 25pt or more. But that’s the funny thing about electoral rules: they’re made to be broken. For example, the aforementioned Alan Abramowitz said that Republicans would have a very hard time getting above the 58% of the white vote in 2010 that they had in 1994. In fact, they won 62% of the white vote in the last midterms.

That’s why Trende has vigorously argued that the demographic wall facing the GOP doesn’t really exist. The worsening Democratic performance among white voters we have seen recently among is part of a longstanding trend. If the pattern continues, then white support for Democrats will continue to drop below its current historic low.

So, now we have a test case of sorts in 2014. The economy really hasn’t gone south. Economic confidence is far higher than it was at the beginning of 2013, although it has stalled slightly. The percentage of those who view economic recovery as imminent has fallen slightly over the past few months, but it’s only slightly lower than where it was at the time of the 2012 election. Put another way, there hasn’t been that level of decline in the economy which many thought would need to happen for Republicans to win with the coalition they have.

Yet, Obama’s net approval rating with white voters is no better than -25pt right now. His approval in Gallup’s polling among white voters since the NSA leaks is now only 34.5%. That’s a 4.5pt drop since the election. Pew has it slightly lower, at 33%, which is a 6pt drop off what Obama was showing in their final pre-election poll last year. It seems as though that wall keeps moving.

Most, if not all, of this drop for Obama is among whites without a college degree. Pew found support from that segment of the electorate dropping by a little less than 10pt. In other words, there is a continuity here with the November election result, in which Obama’s support fell the furthest among whites without a college degree. If you think this might be pegged to public reaction to the Trayvon Martin case, the Zimmerman verdict and the president’s response, it’s not. Pew found college-educated whites reacted in the same way as non-college-educated whites to that issue – yet Obama has seen no decline in his standing among college-educated white voters.

Indeed, the swing looks much as expected: we have that drop among the non-college-educated whites, and among minorities to a smaller degree. We can see this by pooling Gallup’s data since the Edward Snowden/NSA affair; this gives us a very large sample size. That’s important because minority sample size in polls is often very small, which is why Pew and NBC News/Wall Street Journal differed so much in their minority findings this week. Gallup splits the difference and discovers that non-white approval of Obama has fallen since the election by 4pt, or about half of the drop we’ve seen with non-college-educated whites.

Now, things could change and this analysis may end up way out-of-date come 2016. I should also add that the eventual party coalitions may look somewhat different then, with Republicans winning back some African-American voters once Obama is out of office, but maybe also Democrats making a slight recovery with white voters.

But the most salient fact is that Obama’s approval among registered voters is a weak 45% – and that’s without a bad dip in the economy or any grave scandal. This soft approval rating gives credence to what the polling suggests: that Republican party is most likely to win the White House in 2016 with a coalition that includes even more non-college-educated whites and a slight increase among minority voters. © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

What polling on the Zimmerman verdict tell us: use your vote | Harry J Enten

How Americans split on the Trayvon Martin trial mirrors support for Obama. The issue for both is youth and minorities not voting

Why vote? It’s a question often asked. Even for an election junkie, it can sometimes be difficult to know if it will really make a policy difference if we vote. Yet, the George Zimmerman trial and its aftermath offers a prime example of why voting is important. Here’s why.

A Pew Research poll released after the verdict showed that a slight plurality of those surveyed were dissatisfied with the verdict: 42% said they were not happy, while 39% said that they were satisfied. But the racial and age gaps between the two camps were wide.

Whites were in favor of the ruling by a 19pt margin. Blacks against it by an 81pt margin. Latinos were dissatisfied by a 33pt margin. To age: 18-29 year-olds were unhappy by a 25pt margin; 30-49 year-olds by a 11pt margin; 50-64 year-olds were happy by a 1pt margin; while 65+ year-olds approved by a 17pt margin. The general age pattern holds even when controlling for the fact that minorities tend to make a larger percentage of younger voters.

As Nate Cohn points out, these differences look pretty much identical to the coalitions in the 2012 presidential elections.

Any of the changes are within the margin of error. But there is one key difference between the two. The presidential election rundown was among likely voters, while the Zimmerman data are among all adults. While the latter gives us a more accurate picture of how all Americans feel, the former enables a better idea of the possible political ramifications. After all, voters are the people politicians listen to.

When Pew concentrated solely on registered voters, they found that the 3pt margin between satisfied and dissatisfied flipped: 43% were satisfied, while 40% were unsatisfied. Those who are not registered to vote were against the verdict by a 19pt margin. The reason for this is that Latinos and 18-29 year-olds of all races and ethnicities are far less likely to vote. This was mirrored in the 2012 presidential election, when polls of all adults gave Obama a far wider lead among those who did not vote.

The key difference between 2012 and the Zimmerman data is that Obama had a large enough lead to cushion himself against the fact that parts of his coalition were less likely to vote. The takeaway, then, is that if people against the Zimmerman ruling want action, then they need to register to vote.

This is especially the case in Florida. After the Zimmerman verdict, many were calling on Florida Governor Rick Scott to speak out or even act against Florida’s “stand your ground law”. Scott refused.

The good news for those who want Scott out is that he’s quite vulnerable in his 2014 re-election bid. I’d probably bet against him, though it is early days. The truth, though, is that if all voters had cast a ballot, Scott would have never become governor.

Scott won his first term in the 2010 midterms by a margin of 1.15pt. That margin would not have held under a 2008 electorate, but younger voters, as they almost always do, stayed home in the midterm election. Plugging the turnout of the 2008 election into the 2010 results would indicate that Scott’s Democratic opponent, Alex Sink, probably would have won by about 1pt – had the 2010 election had 2008 turnout.

The response on “stand your ground” in the wake of the Zimmerman verdict from a Governor Sink would have likely been quite different than what we got from Governor Scott. She would almost certainly have been more sympathetic to the concerns of the African-American community.

Many other things would, of course, have been different if Florida had had Sink instead of Scott as governor since 2010. Measures to change state pensions, require drug testing for welfare recipients, cut in teacher pay, and, of course, alter the rules on early voting hours would surely have turned out differently. The response to the Trayvon Martin shooting would undoubtedly have been another instance.

So, when someone tells you that voting doesn’t make a difference, point them to Florida in general and the Zimmerman case specifically. Turnout isn’t usually a game-changer, but in this case, it was – and is. A plurality of Americans are dissatisfied by the Zimmerman verdict, yet a plurality of registered voters are satisfied.

If people see the “stand your ground” law as a leading culprit in the Zimmerman acquittal and want to change it, they need to turn out and vote in 2014. © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

‘Cuch’ wins barbecue test in Virginia, but ‘T-Mac’ leads gubernatorial race | Harry J Enten

Virginians find the Republican Cuccinelli likeable – but for his conservatism. On the issues, they prefer the Democrat McAuliffe

Before Eliot Spitzer and Anthony Weiner in New York City, the clown show of 2013 was supposed to be the swing-state Virginia gubernatorial election. Republican Ken Cuccinelli (Cuch) holds deeply conservative views, including his belief that “homosexual acts” are wrong, while Democrat Terry McAuliffe (T-Mac) is seen as unlikable – as demonstrated by the fact that he left his wife alone as she was delivering one of their children.

The question that has marked this campaign is whether it would be Cuch’s extreme policy positions, which, many would argue, the GOP suffers from nationally, or T-Mac’s personality deficiencies that would ultimately be too much for Virginia voters to bear. In my view, issues will trump personality, and that favors the Democrat.

Horserace polling at this early point hasn’t historically given us a good idea of who is going to win. Most voters simply aren’t paying attention. They have no clue, for example, who Republican Lieutenant Governor candidate EW Jackson is, despite much insider discussion of his very conservative social positions.

Yet, Quinnipiac has a very interesting way we can compare the issue v personality problems both gubernatorial candidates have, and see which is more predictive of how the voters feel about the two. On the issues, they asked whether each candidate is too conservative, liberal or about right. Obviously, the percentage of “don’t know” is high given most voters haven’t tuned into the race. For those who have, however, it’s clear that Cuch is going backward.

The percentage of those who think Cuccinelli is too conservative rose by 5pt over the past two months, to its all-time high of 33%. Almost all of that increase is from voters who had previously not registered an opinion. Among independent voters, whom Cuch must win, the percentage of those who thought he was “too conservative” is up from 29% to 38%. The percentage of independents who think he is “too conservative” is now 4pt higher than those who think he is “about right”.

T-Mac has no such problems. The percentage of those who think he is “too liberal” is up 4pt, but that’s mirrored by a 3pt rise in the percentage of those who think he is just right. Voters are 10pt more likely to think he is “about right” than “too far to the left”, versus only a 4pt gap for Cuch between about right and too conservative. Independents are 8pt more likely to say T-Mac is “about right” than “too liberal” – again, much better than how Cuch registers for “too conservative”.

But what about T-Mac’s personality issues? We can test that using the barbecue test. Voters were asked who would they rather have a conversation with at a cookout. The BBQ question is an offshoot of the “who would you rather have a beer with?” It’s trying to measure “comfortability” or the “regular guy” index of the candidates. You’d expect Cuch to do better here, and he does.

Cuch still holds that “personal” edge over T-Mac. Despite thinking Cuch is more conservative than T-Mac is liberal, voters give Cuch this test by 38% to 34%. He is ahead among independents 37% to 34%, even as independents are increasingly thinking that he is too extreme on the issues.

It’s fairly clear, however, that it’s issues not the regular guy index that’s what is shaping perceptions of the candidates. How do I know? Look at the favorability of the candidates. Favorability is very important because no other measure predicts general election match-ups as well as it does in swing states.

Cuch’s unfavorability is up 6pt in the past two months, from 24% to 30% – only slightly better than his favorability of 31%. That’s nearly identical to the 5pt rise in those who think that Cuch is too conservative. Among independents, Cuch’s unfavorability is up 5pt to 30% and now is greater than his favorability at 29%. That 1pt difference among independents is similar to the 4pt difference between “too conservative” and “about right”.

T-Mac’s favorability is up to 30%, from just 22% two months ago. His unfavorable rating is only up 2pt, to 19%. The 11pt difference between the favorability and unfavorability matches the 10pt gap between “just right” and “too liberal” on the issues question. T-Mac stands at 28% favorable to 21% unfavorable with independents. This 7pt gap is nearly the same as the 8pt gap between “about right” and “too liberal” on the issues question.

Therefore, the best measure for predicting the winner in Virginia is looks like being the issues test, and not the “BBQ test”, in Virginia. Voters may not think Terry McAuliffe is a regular guy, but that doesn’t seem to matter. The campaign is developing on the grounds McAuliffe would prefer, and not the one Ken Cuccinelli would favor.

Voters overall, and independents specifically, think McAuliffe is right on the issues; increasingly, they believe that Cuccinelli is not. That makes McAuliffe favorite. © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Liz Cheney: a high-profile name – but she isn’t going to win in Wyoming | Harry Enten

Cheney’s bid for the Senate just doesn’t make sense – and a new poll shows her trailing incumbent Republican Mike Enzi

Sometimes people do things in electoral politics that make no sense. Liz Cheney running for the United States Senate in Wyoming looks to be a prime example. I said so on Wednesday, and nothing has changed.

Today, a new poll shows Cheney trailing longtime and popular incumbent Mike Enzi in a Republican primary 55% to 21%.

The top line, however, is probably too kind to Cheney. In order to successfully challenge someone in a primary, you need to be more popular than the incumbent. Enzi is actually the more popular one. He sports a 76% favorable rating against just 6% who see him in an unfavorable light. Despite being less well known, Cheney has a higher unfavorable rating at 15%. Her favorable rating, meanwhile, is 31pt lower at 45%. That will go up as the campaign goes on, but so will her unfavorable rating.

You might be wondering whether or not Cheney’s connection to her father Dick will help her during the campaign. The former vice-president does have a 58pt net favorable rating, yet that’s significantly less than Enzi’s 70pt net favorable rating. The younger Cheney is going to have to come up with a better strategy than just connecting herself to her father if she wants to win.

The problem for Cheney is there really doesn’t seem to be any area to exploit. As I noted on Wednesday, Enzi simply isn’t vulnerable on his right flank like other Republicans to go down in a primary over the past few years. Senators like Bob Bennett and Dick Lugar were among the top ten most liberal Republicans in the Senate. Enzi was the 11th most conservative member of the Senate last Congress. Wyoming’s other Senator John Barrasso was right next to Enzi at 12th most.

Indeed, there are very little policy differences between Enzi and her. She can try to play up her opposition to the internet sales tax, though that’s an issue that split Republicans down the middle. Moreover, how many people actually will vote on that issue? Most would agree that those voters would be few and far between.

Cheney, meanwhile, is likely vulnerable on her favoring of gay marriage. The Republican controlled state legislature not only didn’t get marriage passed this past year, but it couldn’t even get through a watered down domestic partnership law. A poll taken in next door more liberal Montana showed that 84% of Republicans were against gay marriage (pdf).

One would think that percentage may actually be higher in Wyoming.

Finally, Cheney won’t even be able to play up the “Enzi’s been in Washington too long” angle. Cheney just recently moved back to Wyoming, after living just outside of the District of Columbia for many years. Grover Norquist wondered why Cheney didn’t run for senate in Virginia. Enzi has been living in the state for over 40 years.

The truth is that Cheney’s bid makes no sense from an electoral perspective. She must be doing it because she’s bored or just felt like it. That will likely not be enough to make her the next senator from Wyoming. © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

How the Republicans could win big in the 2014 Senate elections | Harry J Enten

The urban diversity that helps Democrats in presidential elections will hurt them in the race to control the Senate

Republicans’ chance to win back the United States Senate in 2014 are up. Analysts from Nate Silver to Sean Trende put the chances at just south to about 50% for Republicans to take the six seats necessary to gain 51 seats. Why are Republicans doing so well?

The immediate answer is Democrats can’t seem to find strong Democrats to run in states more Republican than the nation as a whole, as measured by the 2012 presidential vote. Democrats have yet to field any candidates in either Montana such as Brian Schweitzer or West Virginia, even though Democrats currently represent those states. Indeed, the majority candidates Democrats are finding to run in red states are lackluster. Even the better than average candidates such as incumbent Mary Landrieu of Louisiana are facing mediocre polling numbers.

Democrats’ red state blues are a big deal considering Democrats have to defend seven seats more Republican than the nation as a whole, while Republicans only have to beat back a Democratic challenge in one state won by President Obama. Seven minus one equals the six seats the Republicans need for control.

Yet, I would argue that 2014 recruitment failures are as much about the current state of each party’s coalitions than anything particular to this election cycle. There are now more states that lean Republican than lean Democratic. Twenty-six states are more Republican than the nation as a whole. Only 23 states are more Democratic. Virginia votes with the nation. Translating that to Senate seats, we’d expect something like a 53 to 47 Republican advantage on presidential vote alone.

Just twenty years ago, this Republican state edge might not have been so big of a deal. In 1993, 49% of the Senate Democratic caucus came from red states, and 28% of the Republican caucus came from blue states.

Now though, straight-ticket voting is becoming the rule for senate elections. Only 25% of the Democratic Senate caucus comes from red states, while 16% of Republicans come from blue states. The 25% and 16% listed above should fall even further as Republicans bump up their numbers with red staters in 2014, while the Democratic caucus will become more limited to blue staters.

These statistics explain why Democrats are having such recruitment problems in red states in 2014, and why they should for years going forward. People don’t want to run in races they’ll probably lose.

What demographics are behind the Republican state edge? Ironically, it’s the same factor that many are citing as the possible reason for their demise in presidential elections: Republicans are increasingly the party of white and rural voters. Mitt Romney won white voters by 20pt, if you believe the exit polls. Romney took rural areas by 24pt. President Obama won non-whites by 62pt and took the largest cities by 40pt and moderate sized cities by 18pt.

The relationship between racial and geographic voting patterns is no accident. Only about 26% of the country as a whole live in the top 10 metropolitan areas. For minorities, those percentages climb significantly: 37% of blacks, who voted for Obama by a 10:1 ratio, live in the top ten metropolitan areas. This includes Washington, DC, which doesn’t have any representation in Congress. Further, 45% of Latinos, who voted for Obama by greater than a 2.5:1 ratio, live in the top ten metropolitan areas.

That’s why it should be no surprise that 36 of the 50 states in the union have a higher percentage of non-Hispanic whites than the nation as a whole. That puts the Democratic party behind the eight ball in winning more states than Republicans. If racial polarization in terms of voting patterns continue to exist or get worse, then it will only go downhill for Democrats in winning more states.

This isn’t that big of a deal in winning presidential contests. The electoral college may be a lot of things, but it does take into account population in assigning electoral votes. Indeed, at this point, the Democrats seem to be enjoying an advantage in the electoral college. That is, they are in a better position to win the electoral college and lose the national vote than are Republicans.

On the Senate level, it is, however, a very big deal. Each state gets two senators, regardless of population. The deeply Republican and white smallest state Wyoming has a population of about 600,000 people. The deeply Democratic and diverse largest state California has a population of 38 million – 37.4 million people more than Wyoming.

But then why haven’t Republicans already won the senate? Republicans have had recruitment problems of their own. Think of some of the Republicans put up over the past few years, including Todd Akin, Sharron Angle, Ken Buck, Richard Mourdock, and Christine O’Donnell.

If Republicans get some decent candidates like they have in North Dakota with Mike Rounds and West Virginia with Shelley Moore Capito this year, then the Senate should be a gold mine for them. Not only should Republicans have an easier shot at the majority, but they should have a better chance to run up the score in years in which they do well. Had Mitt Romney had won by the same percentage nationwide as President Obama did, he would have won 34 states compared to the 26 Obama took. That’s eight Senate seats’ worth.

Now, none of this means that Republicans will win back the Senate in 2014. Republicans need a slightly more favorable national environment than seen in 2012. Then, they still need candidates to take advantage of the math – candidates who don’t make women run away when they speak.

What the math does mean, however, is that keeping all other things equal, the combination of the new Republican coalition and straight-ticket voting gives Republicans a big step-up in winning the Senate.

• This article on 19 July to correctly reflect the red state/blue state divide in the Senate in 1993. © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Liz Cheney’s underwhelming ad makes weak bid for Wyoming Senate seat | Harry J Enten

The farm setting is all very well, but she’ll need a stronger message to depose her solidly conservative GOP opponent


Former Vice-President Dick Cheney’s older daughter, Liz Cheney. Liz Cheney has been involved in Republican politics for an extended period of time. She spent two stints in the State Department in the George W Bush administration. She worked on Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign and as a co-chair on Fred Thompson’s 2008 presidential campaign. Most recently, she’s been in the public eye as a Fox News contributor.


Cheney announced her campaign for the US Senate from Wyoming in 2014. Though she failed to mention it directly, she’s challenging fellow Republican incumbent Mike Enzi. Considering that Wyoming went for Mitt Romney by 41pt over President Obama, winning the primary is tantamount to winning the Senate seat.


The ad was released on Tuesday afternoon, 16 July.


It’s had web distribution, but no sign that it’s been released on television in Wyoming. At a little less than six minutes long, the ad in its current incarnation would almost certainly be cut down for broadcast. Most likely, this ad will not air in Wyoming; it’s aimed at people in Washington, DC and those who follow politics closely.


The strangest aspect is how Cheney managed to keep it going for 5 minutes and 47 seconds without a break: there are no cut aways. All she does is stare into the camera with what I believe is the family farm in the background. You feel riveted in place watching it, but not in a good way.

The farm setting is no mistake. Most experts expected Cheney to run for public office eventually; they just weren’t sure where she was going to do it. She had lived in Virginia until recently, but moved back to Wyoming in likely preparation for this run. The farm background aims to tell Cowboy State voters she’s “one of them”.

Cheney plays up to this by talking about her family’s roots in Wyoming, but she quickly pivots to discussing national political affairs, with vaguer statements about the relationship between government and people: the deficit, lower taxes, and less government interference are emphasized – that is, Republican boilerplate.

Not mentioned is Mike Enzi, the incumbent GOP senator. Enzi has announced that he is going to run for another term.

Nowhere in Cheney’s ad does she make a strong argument for unseating him. In fact, it is entirely possible that Cheney planned to run this ad regardless of whether or not Enzi declared his desire to be re-elected.

But in that case, why would Wyoming Republicans want to replace Enzi with someone who holds almost identical positions? Enzi’s voting record made him the 11th most conservative senator in the last Congress, while Wyoming’s other Republican senator was the 12th most conservative. This places Enzi far to the right of other Republicans who have been deemed not conservative enough by primary electorates over the past few years.

Cheney will likely try to play up her opposition to the internet sales tax, an issue on which most Republicans are opposed. But how many people will actually care enough about the internet sales tax to vote on it as a single issue?

Cheney is expected to be in favor of gay marriage, yet Enzi’s position against it is almost certainly the majority position in Wyoming. The Republican-controlled state legislature just voted it and a lesser domestic partnership bill down. A poll in more liberal neighboring Montana found most people were against it (pdf), including 84% of Republicans. That number might well undershoot opposition in Wyoming.

Cheney might try to say that Enzi has been in Washington too long. But I’m willing to bet that Enzi has spent more days in Wyoming over the past few years than Cheney. Enzi has actually lived in the state for over 40 years, whereas Cheney has been living just outside Washington, DC. If she goes that route, Cheney will open herself up to counter-attacks.


The truth is that Liz Cheney is going to need more than just good name recognition to defeat incumbent Mike Enzi. She’ll need a strong message if she’s going to beat a man who, when last polled, had a 76% approval rating from Republicans statewide. This ad did not begin to articulate what that message would be. © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Will Weiner be a winner and can Stringer make Spitzer a loser? | Harry J Enten

The Democratic primaries for New York mayor and comptroller are warming up – with two scandal-ridden candidates in front

The latest surveys from Marist and Quinnipiac have Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer leading the mayoral and comptroller primaries respectively. But will that hold?

Democratic mayoral primary: Weiner v Quinn v the rest

For the first time in the campaign, one can easily paint a picture that would have Weiner winning both the primary and the runoff. Weiner leads by 25% to 22% over City Council Speaker Christine Quinn in the Quinnipiac survey released on Monday. It’s not the top line, however, that should make Weiner smile. It’s the fact that Quinn is in her weakest position yet against Weiner for the runoff, which will be held if no candidate reaches a threshold of 40% in the first round.

Quinn’s net favorable rating among Democrats is only +5pt. This is an amazing 50pt drop since January. It’s also a 16pt decline from just late June. Weiner, on the other hand, has a +6pt net favorable rating. That’s stayed relatively steady, if not risen somewhat, since he entered the race. Marist’s poll in late June, which had Weiner ahead by 5pt, discovered an even higher rise in his favorables.

Though Quinnipiac didn’t specifically poll the runoff, previous surveys by Marist indicated that Weiner was actually outperforming Quinn relative to their favorable ratings. So, I would guess that Weiner is probably ahead in a runoff against an opponent who is actually more disliked than he is.

Quinn’s weakness is not any personal life foible. Most likely, it’s because of outside campaigns linking her to Mayor Bloomberg, who is disliked by a substantial portion of the Democratic electorate, especially for her approval of a rule-changing extra term for Bloomberg. It will be difficult for her to unite the anti-Weiner vote in a runoff.

So Weiner, at this point, has to be considered the favorite in a runoff.

The most likely way Weiner could lose is if either current Public Advocate Bill de Blasio or former Comptroller Bill Thompson reach the runoff. They’re both polling in the low teens in the first round – well behind Quinn. But both have far higher net favorables (+30pt or more), depending on whether you look at Marist or Quinnipiac. Their problem is the same: each is relatively unknown, with about 50% of those surveyed expressing no opinion of them, per Quinnipiac, as opposed to only 20% having no view of Weiner.

Both De Blasio and Thompson will benefit from the city’s public financing system, which will allow them to get their name out there more. The question is whether they will really break through in the media. That could prove difficult given that the press will likely focus on the Weiner-Quinn dynamic, as well as on Spitzer in the comptroller race.

Thompson likely has the best chance. I believe that surveys are underestimating Thompson’s share of the black vote (he is the only African-American candidate). I still think that’s the case, but any underestimation effect would not be so great as to change the current ordering of the top line in either the Marist or the Quinnipiac polls, which have him at least 7pt behind Quinn. He’ll need to get closer than he is currently to count on any survey under-count effect putting him over the top.

All this said, New York City mayoral primaries have a tendency to break late. This is especially the case when all the candidates are relatively close together. Today’s polling isn’t necessarily predictive of tomorrow’s.

Spitzer v Stringer for comptroller

A very different dynamic is at play in the comptroller race. Spitzer leads Scott Stringer 48% to 33% (Quinnipiac), and 42% to 33% (Marist), respectively. He has a better net favorable than either Quinn or Weiner at +21pt. Do a better net favorable and a bigger lead mean that Spitzer is more likely to win?

That is one way to look at it. Indeed, I’d be the first to admit that I’m surprised that Spitzer is polling so well despite his sex scandal past. Still, I’d argue that the one-on-one dynamic against Stringer puts him at an inherent disadvantage: it’s a zero-sum game and if Stringer moves up, he’ll eat into Spitzer’s numbers. In the mayoral race, the dynamic is different: De Blasio or Thompson may be able to take votes off each other, or off either Weiner or Quinn.

Spitzer enjoys the best name recognition of any of the candidates in either race, with only 15% not holding an opinion of him per Quinnipiac. Stringer has the lowest name recognition, with 63% saying they didn’t know how they feel about the current Manhattan borough president. That low number almost certainly will not hold as the contest heats up.

While elected officials and labor unions are split as to who they support in the mayoral race, they are almost uniformly behind Stringer in the comptroller election. Stringer will have raised at least $5-6m including matching funds. The press will also likely pay more attention to Stringer in this race than to either De Blasio or Thompson in the mayoral primary, because he’s the only opponent Spitzer has. That should help Stringer boost his name identification hugely.

As Stringer’s name recognition goes up, his polling against Spitzer should as well. Spitzer is up by 35pt among black voters in the Quinnipiac poll, yet 72% have no opinion of Stringer. Spitzer leads by 20pt among Latinos, as 76% have no opinion of Stringer. The one racial group Stringer does lead Spitzer among is whites, partially because a much lower 46% have no opinion of Stringer. Among all groups, Stringer has a better favorable to unfavorable ratio. His ratio overall is a little better than 3:1, while it is only about half that for Spitzer.

This graph by Mark Blumenthal tells the story.

Stringer’s deficit by borough is directly related to how well Stinger is liked. Where he is best known and liked, in Manhattan, he is polling the best. Where he is least liked and least known, in Queens and Staten Island, he is polling the worst.

In short, I don’t think Spitzer’s lead is as strong as the top line suggests. It should fade as Stringer becomes better known. Weiner’s advantage over Quinn is more secure, but he has to look out for the better-liked De Blasio and Thompson. With public financing of candidates the rule and most voters not yet tuned in, anything can still happen. © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Will the Republican party get another George W Bush? | Harry J Enten

The GOP isn’t necessarily headed for decline. It will likely choose a candidate who appeals to midwestern populists

Is the Republican party heading for doom? Some have argued for example that the House GOP’s hardcore conservatism will hurt them with moderates. Others believe the House GOP’s lack of movement on immigration will severely hurt them among the growing bloc of Latino voters. I have stated for a breadth of reasons that Republicans will be just fine without moving, even if some Republican politicians are outside the mainstream on some issues. But what if I’m wrong?

My guess is Republican primary voters with a big assist from party insiders will solve the problem. There’s a tendency among many to think that Republican primary voters are the driving force behind the Republican party’s move to the right. The academic literature tends to dismiss that view. Moreover, there is a good bit of evidence to suggest that Republican presidential primary voters put one goal above pretty much all others: winning.

During the 2012 election, Republican primary voters were greeted with a host of options. Most would agree that Mitt Romney was among the most moderate of those choices outside Jon Huntsman, who would have been more liberal than even the moderate Jerry Ford. Romney had engineered a healthcare plan during his time as governor of Massachusetts that was quite similar to Obamacare. Obamacare, of course, is something that is about as despised in Republican ranks as “The war on Christmas”.

Yet, Romney won the nomination. He did so because he was viewed as the most electable in primary after primary. Consider the key Michigan primary when a Santorum victory could have been devastating to Romney’s hopes. A plurality 32% said that defeating President Obama was the most important issue. Among those voters Romney won 61% of the vote – far higher than his 41% among all voters. Same thing happened the following week in the swing state of Ohio. Then 42% said winning in November was most important and Romney took 52% of these voters versus the 38% he took overall.

How did Republican primary electorate get the message? As demonstrated in The Party Decides (a must read book), presidential nominations are often decided by the party insiders. If the insiders like you as a candidate, then you’re going to receive a lot of support. This has held in pretty much every primary in the modern nominating era.

And 2012 was no different. Seth Masket of the University of Denver notes that Mitt Romney received the bulk of insider endorsements in 2012, while other candidates received few. These endorsers stood by Romney even as he faltered in states like South Carolina. Others like Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum received no support when they fell or said something stupid. Party insiders pretty much trashed Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, at every turn. This sent a strong signal to the primary electorate, which listened.

You don’t have to be an electoral genius to know why Romney was the chosen one. Polls painted him as the most electable conservative of the bunch, and he wasn’t going to melt down as the nominee. Romney, of course, did about as well as the economic fundamentals said he should. This suggests that the insiders had a pretty good idea of what they were doing, even if Romney didn’t win.

I fully expect the same pattern to emerge in 2016. Republican insiders want just like the middle of their party to win. The winning factor becomes especially true once a party has been out of power for a while as illustrated by the fact that the longer a party is out of power the higher possibility a more moderate nominee is chosen. That’s why we’re having all this discussion about whether and if so how the Republican party needs to change to win in a year where the economic conditions don’t overwhelmingly favor them.

You might say that the House GOP is poisoning the well. Past history tends to suggest otherwise. Back in 1998, the House GOP impeached President Bill Clinton in a gamble that ultimately backfired. Most Americans saw the move as extreme, and the Republican party saw its favorability plummet in the aftermath of the 1998 midterm election.

The Republican party decided to go with a Washington outsider in Texas Governor George W Bush. Bush, at the time, was well liked by most Americans. He turned in one of the strongest performances by a candidate relative to the economic fundamentals on record. Along the way, the Republican party’s favorability among the American people rebounded.

Will the Republican party have another George W Bush to turn to? I don’t know. What I do know is that there will be no shortage of choices. There will likely be a candidate who appeals to midwestern populists like Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin, a Latino (granted not one from the immigration political hotbed of Mexico) who played a key role in getting immigration reform through the senate in Marco Rubio, a moderate Republican like former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, a southerner and strong social conservative like Texas governor Rick Perry, a libertarian like Senator Rand Paul, and others.

There, candidates represent the differing views on whether Republicans need to appeal more to Hispanics, whites, moderates or just hang tight. Smart insider Republican minds (yes both parties have handy operators around the country) will take into account all the facts and numbers and render a verdict on who is the best choice for the party to win. This decision will become apparent to the primary electorate. I’m betting that both will likely choose accordingly. © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Can the Democrats really win back the House in the 2014 midterms? | Harry J Enten

According to one reputable pollster, they can. But the data don’t support it: without a big boost for Obama, it’s wishful thinking

The word “spin” can mean many things. One definition is to present information in such a fashion that it makes people see something that isn’t really there. A classic example would be a memo from the Democratic firm Democracy Corps on a recent poll they conducted in “competitive House districts” for the 2014 midterm elections.

The memo’s authors want readers to believe that the Democrats have a chance to win back House of Representatives in the midterms based on Democracy Corps data. History and their own polling data, in fact, suggest the very opposite.

The president’s party rarely picks up seats during midterm elections. It has occurred only three times since the American civil war: 1934, 1998, and 2002. All three featured presidents who were very popular. President Clinton in 1998 and President Bush in 2002 had approval ratings into the 60s in most surveys. Despite that high approval, their parties picked up only five and eight seats respectively. The Democrats need to pick up 17 to gain control of the House in 2014. The president’s party has not picked up more than nine seats in a midterm since 1865.

In order for that to occur, we would almost certainly need to see an extremely popular president. We don’t.

Among registered voters, President Obama’s approval rating is in the mid 40s. No poll since the middle of May has had President Obama’s approval rating above his disapproval rating among registered voters. The best estimate I have is that President Obama has somewhere in the neighborhood of a -4pt approval among registered voters. It’s probably slightly worse among those who turn out to vote in midterm elections.

Indeed, the Democracy Corps survey shows that President Obama’s approval rating in the swing districts is a measly 44%. His net approval among these 2014 likely voters is -8pt. This is despite the respondents saying that they voted for President Obama by a 3 pt margin in 2012. It’s very difficult to imagine that Democrats can win back many seats when Obama is this disliked in these districts. In the last two midterms, the percentage of the vote won by the president’s party was pretty much equal to the percentage who approved of the president’s job performance.

You might say that the Republican brand is so toxic that House Democrats can overcome a relatively unpopular president. The Democracy Corp poll demonstrates the opposite. The tested Republican candidate in the poll has a 2pt advantage over the Democratic candidate. That’s little changed over the 3pt margin by which respondents said they voted for Republicans in 2012. Such a difference is worth a few seats at most, but certainly not 17.

A closer look illustrates more problems for a possible Democratic takeover. In the seats that Democracy Corps identifies as the most vulnerable, Republican candidates are 1pt ahead. In this same category at this point in the 2012 cycle, Republican candidates were actually down 1pt. A few months before the 2012 election, Republicans were down 6pt in this category.

So, the most vulnerable Republican candidates are actually in a stronger position now than they were for the 2012 election. When Republicans were far more at risk in 2012, they lost only 11 seats in this category and eight overall.

The reason Republicans lost fewer seats overall than just the Republican vulnerable category is because it isn’t just Republicans who are vulnerable. The poll also asked 500 respondents in Democratic districts how they planned to vote. Democrats lead in these districts by 2pt. This certainly does not spell a Republican wave, but it’s worse than the 4pt edge these same respondents said they gave to Democrats in the 2012 elections. This could lead to a few Democratic seats actually falling to the Republicans.

The overall picture the ballot test points to, at this point, is a status quo election. That matches the Washington expert ratings of the Cook Political Report and Rothenberg Political Report – both of which have a near equal number of Democratic and Republican seats up for grabs, with, in fact, a few more Democratic-held seats in play.

Could the political environment change to favor Democrats? It can, but I doubt that would be enough. Joseph Bafumi, Bob Erikson, and Chris Wlezien have shown that the president’s party position in the ballot test deteriorates as you move closer to the actual date of the midterm election. It’s why the Democrats lost all of their Democracy Corp-designated most vulnerable seats in 2010, even though they had a 4pt lead in them at this point in the cycle.

Given the president’s approval rating at this point, it’s more likely for the Democrats to lose ground than gain it. Only an unlikely 15pt improvement in Obama’s approval might conceivably reverse it.

The truth is that Democrats face a very uphill battle to take over in the House of Representatives. The actual data from Democracy Corps, whose polling I trust, proves Democrats are quite unlikely to take back the House. No amount of spin will change that fact. © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds